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#7 Tennessee Lady Vols Basketball heads down to Florida to take on the Gators

#7 Tennessee (19-2 | 8-1 SEC) vs. Florida (15-6 | 5-3 SEC)
Thursday, February 3rd, 2022 | 5:02pm CT
Gainesville, FL | Exactech Arena

Tennessee Volunteers - UT VolsKnoxville, TN – After a one-game stay at home, No. 7/7 Tennessee women’s basketball team (19-2/8-1 SEC) hits the road for Gainesville to take on a greatly-improved Florida squad (15-6/5-3 SEC/receiving votes in both polls) at 5:02pm CT on Thursday in Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

The match-up marks UT’s second of three games this week and the fifth of what will be six road tilts in the past eight contests once Kellie Harper‘s squad meets No. 10/9 UConn in Hartford at noon on Sunday.

Thursday’s battle will mark the 59th all-time meeting between the Lady Vols and Gators, with the Big Orange possessing a 54-4 mark vs. UF in a series that dates back to 1980.
Tennessee heads to Gainesville tied for first in the SEC standings with No. 1/1 South Carolina, thanks to a come-from-behind win over Arkansas on Monday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. Jordan Horston and Rae Burrell had 24 and 21 points, respectively, as the Lady Vols wiped out a 13-point third-quarter deficit to send the game to overtime and prevail in the extra frame, 86-83. The turnaround was the biggest comeback of the season for Tennessee and tied for the second-best of the Harper era behind last year’s erasure of a 16-point South Carolina advantage en route to victory over the Gamecocks.
Speaking of USC, Dawn Staley’s team built a comfortable early advantage but had to work for its victory over Florida in the Gators’ most recent game. UF held the nation’s top-ranked team to a 62-50 margin in Gainesville on Sunday. Kiara “Kiki” Smith led all scorers with 22 points on as many field goal attempts and helped force the Gamecocks into 21 turnovers.

Broadcast Information

Kyle Crooks (play-by-play) and former Florida standout Brittany Davis (analyst) are on the call for the SECN+ live stream.

All of the games included in the ESPN package (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) will be available through WatchESPN, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, and streamed on televisions through Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 or Xbox One to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider.

The contest also can be heard on Lady Vol Network radio stations and by audio stream, with John Wilkerson filling in for Mickey Dearstone behind the microphone. He will be joined by studio host Bobby Rader.

A link to the live audio stream can be found on each game’s Hoops Central page or the Lady Vol schedule on UTSports.com.

For a list of Lady Vol Network affiliates, please click on the Fans tab at the top of UTSports.com, select Vol Network and then click on Vol Network Affiliates.

Air time for games on the Lady Vol Radio Network generally occurs 30 minutes prior to tip-off.

Tennessee In SEC Play

UT is 423-89 (.826) in SEC regular-season games through Arkansas, winning 18 regular-season championships and capturing 17 SEC tourney titles.

Tennessee Head Coach Kellie Harper is 27-11 in SEC games in her third year on Rocky Top, including 8-1 in 2021-22, and is 2-2 in SEC Tournament play.

UT tied for third in 2019-20 and finished third outright in 2020-21, marking its best back-to-back outcomes in league play since taking second in 2013-14 and first in 2014-15.

The Lady Vols were picked second in the 2021-22 SEC Preseason Media Poll and No. 3 in the SEC Preseason Coaches Poll, marking their best positions since 2015-16 and 2016-17, respectively.

UT No. 7/7 In  Polls

After opening the year ranked No. 15/12, the Lady Vols climbed to No. 4 in the January 24th AP Poll and hit a best of No. 5 in the January 25th USA TODAY/WBCA Coaches Poll. This week, they stand at No. 7 in both polls as of January 31st and February 1st.

The No. 4/5 plateau was the highest combination of rankings since the Lady Vols were No. 4/5 in the November 23rd and 24 polls of the 2015-16 campaign.

UT began that 2015-16 season at No. 4 in each poll and stayed there for two more weeks in the AP Top 25 but was relegated to No. 5 in the coaches poll the following two polling periods.

UT Lady Vols Projected For No. 2 Seed

In his Bracketology update on February 1st, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has Tennessee as a No. 2 seed in the Wichita Region. The Lady Vols are shown hosting No. 15 Mercer in the first round, with the winner facing No. 7 Ohio State or No. 10 Missouri State in the second round.

ESPN has the Big Orange at No. 6 in its January 31st Women’s College Basketball Power Rankings.
The NCAA NET Rankings show UT ranked No. 8 through January 31st, while the NCAA Toughest Schedule report had the Lady Vols at No. 13 (cumulative opposition).
RealTimeRPI.com has UT at No. 4 in RPI as of February 1st with a calculation of .6903 and No. 6 in strength of schedule.

About the UT Lady Vols

The Tennessee Lady Vols continue to be one of the nation’s most surprising stories of 2021-22, opening up at 19-2, tied atop the SEC standings, and climbing to No. 4 in the AP Poll (currently No. 7) against one of the NCAA’s toughest schedules despite losing returning starter Marta Su├írez for the season to a lower leg injury and playing without top returning scorer Rae Burrell for 12 games (leg injury) and this year’s leading scorer and rebounder Jordan Horston for three (lower leg injury/illness).

Burrell and Horston are back in form, but the Lady Vols lost another player for the season on January 23rd, when key reserve Keyen Green suffered a left knee injury vs. Georgia.

Tennessee picked up its fifth victory over a ranked team this season on January 23rd, as the Lady Vols came from nine down to defeat No. 13/13 Georgia in Athens, 63-55. UT recorded four wins over ranked foes the entire 2020-21 campaign and had only one ranked win in 2019-20.

The Big Orange women also have victories over No. 23/22 South Florida (52-49), No. 12/21 Texas (74-70 OT), No. 25/23 Texas A&M (73-45), and No. 19/20 Kentucky (84-58) to their credit and beat RV/RV Virginia Tech (64-58) and RV/RV Ole Miss (70-58) on the road this season.

Tennessee is led by Jordan Horston, a dynamic 6-2 junior guard, who paces the team in scoring (16.2 ppg.), rebounding (9.7), assists (3.9 apg.), and steals (1.6) in a breakout season for the five-star player who came out of high school ranked No. 2 overall and the No. 1 guard in the 2019 espnW HoopGurlz 100. 

Horston leads the UT Lady Vols with 10 double-doubles and has topped UT in scoring 12 times, including double-doubles in five of her last seven games.

Senior All-SEC First Team preseason pick Rae Burrell (10.2 ppg., 3.1 rpg.) has seen action the past eight games after missing the previous 12 contests due to a leg injury suffered in the opener vs. Southern Illinois. She has hit double figures in four of the past five games, hitting 10+ for the first time since November 10th, tallying 11 at Vanderbilt, 14 vs. Kentucky, 13 vs. Georgia and a season-high 21 vs. Arkansas on Monday night.

Over that five-game span, Burrell is putting up 13.4 ppg. and 4.4 rpg. and shooting 41 percent from the field, 54 percent on threes, and 82 percent from the free-throw line.

Tamari Key, a 6-6 junior center, is putting up 10.1 ppg. and 8.4 rpg. to go along with 3.8 bpg. She had a triple-double of 10 points, 18 rebounds, and 10 blocks in UT’s 74-70 OT victory over No. 12/21 Texas.

Key, rated No. 47 as a prep by espnW, is second on the team with seven double-doubles thus far and has scored in double figures in 12 of 21 games for the Lady Vols. She leads the nation in blocked shots (80) and is second in bpg. (3.81), sitting in UT’s single-season top 10 for the third time at No. 7 with 80 swats in 21 contests. She also ranks fifth (86, 2019-20, 31 games) and ninth (72, 2020-21, 25 games) on that list.

Alexus Dye, a 6-0 forward, is third among active UT players in scoring at 9.2 ppg. She is third in rebounding at 7.7 rpg and has three double-doubles, including a 13/10 effort vs. Arkansas most recently. The graduate transfer from Troy has scored in double figures nine times.

Graduate guard Jordan Walker, who had 17 points vs. Auburn, is Tennessee’s fifth-highest scorer, putting up 7.8 ppg., while tallying 3.9 rpg. and 3.2 apg. to rank fourth and second for UT in those categories.
Freshman guard/forward Sara Puckett is UT’s sixth-leading scorer. The No. 43 espnW prospect coming out of high school is putting up 7.4 ppg. and is shooting 50.0 percent from the field, 35.3 percent on threes, and 77.8 percent on free throws and has scored in double figures six times, including a critical 10-point, 10-rebound double-double in the win over Arkansas on January 31st.
Sophomore Tess Darby has emerged this season as Tennessee’s leading long-distance threat, connecting on 29 of 81 attempts (35.8 pct.). Jordan Walker (33.9) and Sara Puckett (35.3) have hit 19 and 18 treys, respectively.

The Lady Vols have limited unranked opponents to 31.1 field goal percentage this season, including 24.1 from the three-point arc, and have given up only 55.9 points per contest.

The Big Orange is averaging 73.1 ppg. and shooting 43.9 percent vs. unranked foes.

UT is out-rebounding unranked foes by 18.7 this season, 50.5 to 31.8.

Tennessee pulled down 60 rebounds vs. Arkansas on January 31st, marking the third 60+ effort of the season and the 12th game with 50 or more boards.

Over its last four games, Tennessee is shooting 75.4 percent from the free-throw line.

Jordan Walker is averaging 10.0 ppg. and shooting 45.5 percent from the field over the past four games.

Rae Burrell is seven for 13 from the three-point arc over the past five contests.

Tennessee Notes During SEC Play

Kellie Harper‘s squad is tied atop the SEC standings with No. 1/1 South Carolina at 8-1.

UT is scoring 70.4 ppg. and allowing 58.7 ppg., while shooting 41.9 percent from the field and holding opponents to only 32.4 percent on field goals.

Tennessee is out-rebounding SEC teams 50.0 to 36.0 for a +14.0 margin.

The Lady Vols have limited foes to shooting only 22.0 percent from the three-point arc, including games vs. noted three-ball teams Arkansas (twice) and Texas A&M.

UT has worked to elevate its free-throw shooting. It shot 59.2 vs. non-conference foes and has raised it to 70.2 percent in nine SEC games.

Jordan Horston (17.6 ppg., 10.1 rpg. and 4.0 apg.), Rae Burrell (10.0 ppg., 3.3 rpg.), Tamari Key (10.0 ppg., 7.2 rpg.) Jordan Walker (9.6 ppg., 4.3 rpg., 3.2 apg.) and Alexus Dye (7.9 ppg., 6.7 rpg.) have led Tennessee in its first nine conference games.

Key is shooting 60.4 percent from the floor and has blocked 37 shots already.

Also worth noting, Tess Darby (5.4 ppg.) is 13 of 31 on threes (41.9) during league play, while Rae Burrell is eight of 20 (40.0) and Jordan Walker is eight of 22 (36.4).

Alexus Dye (87.5) and Jordan Walker (78.3) have been much improved at the charity stripe during league play.

Freshmen Brooklynn Miles (17.9) and Sara Puckett (19.7) are seeing significant minutes per game in SEC play for Tennessee.

Looking Back At The Last Game

Battling back from a 13-point deficit, the No. 7/5 Lady Vols defeated Arkansas 86-83 in overtime Monday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Tennessee (19-2, 8-1 SEC) found key offense from a number of contributors. Jordan Horston scored 24 points to lead the Big Orange, while Rae Burrell was clutch down the stretch, sinking 17 of her 21 points in the second half and overtime. Tamari Key got it done at the line, making a career-best eight free throws in a 14-point night.

Horston’s energy showed on both ends of the floor, as she also pulled down 11 rebounds and tallied 40 minutes on the floor, a career-high. It was Horston’s 10th double-double of the year. Entering Monday night’s games, only 26 players in Division I had 10 or more double-doubles, and only eight play at Power 5 programs.

Another big night came from Sara Puckett off the bench. The freshman logged 10 points and a career-high 10 boards, with nine coming on the defensive end for her first career double-double. The 6-foot-2 freshman blocked two shots, her first game with multiple swats on Rocky Top.

Tennessee kicked into gear in the fourth quarter, taking its first lead of the game with 7:46 left in the frame. The Razorbacks (14-7, 4-4 SEC) hung around as the teams went back-and-forth with six lead changes and four ties in the final period of regulation.

The Lady Vols owned the boards on the evening, pulling down 60. Monday night’s contest marked the first SEC game with 60 rebounds or more since the Lady Vols had 62 against Ole Miss on February 6th, 2003. It also marked the first time since the 2013-14 season the Lady Vols had three games with 60 or more boards.

Arkansas’ offense was powered by Amber Ramirez who scored 29 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc.

Notables  From Our Last Game

Moving On Up

Tamari Key swatted four shots against the Razorbacks, moving her season total to 80 and career total to 238. She passes Sheila Frost (77) to rank seventh in single-season blocks and creeps within 11 of Frost’s career total of 249 that ranks second all-time among Lady Vols. 

Sara Settling In

Freshman Sara Puckett put up 10 points and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double against UA, finding her way into double digits for the first time since dropping a career-high 19 against ETSU on Dec. 20. It’s her sixth performance with 10 or more points this season and the first against an SEC opponent. 

That Girl Is On Fire

Junior Jordan Horston recorded her 10th double-double and fifth 20+-point game of the season against Arkansas. Five of those double-doubles and three of her 20+ point performances have come in SEC play. She currently averages 17.6 ppg., 10.1 rpg. and 4.3 apg. against conference foes.  

Owning The Paint

The Lady Vols out-rebounded UA 60-40, marking the third game of the season in which they’ve pulled down 60 or more boards. Twenty of those boards were on the offensive end, translating into season-high-tying 27 second-chance points. Tennessee held Arkansas to just six second-chance points, the third-lowest allowed this season, and it’s the third time over the last four games that UT has secured 20+ offensive rebounds. 

Cardiac Kids

Tennessee overcame its largest deficit of the season against the Razorbacks, erasing a 13-point third-quarter deficit to claim its second overtime win and 18th come-from-behind win of the season. 

Tennessee-Florida Series Notes

Tennessee holds a 54-4 all-time record vs. Florida, dating back to February 8th, 1980, winning six straight and 17 of the past 18 meetings.

UT is 24-2 vs. UF in games played in Knoxville, 8-0 at neutral sites and 3-1 in overtime contests vs the Gators, including 3-0 in Gainesville in those extra-frame affairs.

UT is 22-2 all-time in games played in Gainesville, winning the past seven trips there and in 13 of the past 14 visits, including 78-50 on January 16th, 2020.

Kellie Harper is 2-1 vs. the Gators, suffering a 66-64 neutral site loss as North Carolina State’s head coach on November 23rd, 2012, and starting her UT career, 2-0, with wins in Gainesville (2020) and Knoxville (2021).

Tennessee has managed to hold Florida to 50 points or fewer in three of the past four meetings, including exactly 50 in two of the past three seasons.

UT’s record for most free throws made in a game (40-46) came at Florida on February 3rd, 2005.

Tamari Key’s 10 blocks vs. Florida in Knoxville on January 31st, 2021, as part of a triple-double rank as the second-most ever swatted in a game by a Lady Vol. Key matched that mark on November 21st, 2021, in Knoxville vs. Texas.

About the Florida Gators

Florida is led in scoring by graduate guard Kiara “Kiki” Smith at 14.7 ppg., with sophomore forward Jordyn Merritt also in double figures at 10.7 ppg.

In SEC play, Smith is putting up 19.3 ppg., followed by Zipporah Broughton (14.3) and Merritt (10.8).

UF’s (then) leading scorer (Lavender Briggs, 12.5 ppg.) went into the transfer portal after 14 games.

About Florida Head Coach Kelly Rae Finley

Kelly Rae Finley is Florida’s interim head coach after Cameron Neubauer’s resignation in July.

She leads one of the SEC’s surprise teams this season, featuring a 15-6 record, including a 5-3 mark that currently ties the Gators for fourth place.

Last Time The Gators Played

Florida’s five-game win streak came to an end on Sunday after a Gators’ comeback attempt fell short against No. 1 South Carolina, 62-50, in Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Kiara Smith led the Gators (15-6, 5-3 SEC) with 22 points, while Zippy Broughton also scored in double figures, tallying 11. For the game, Florida shot 20-of-65 (30.8%) from the field and 2-of-11 (18.2%) from three-point range.
The Florida defense made the Gamecocks (20-1, 8-1 SEC) uncomfortable as well, holding the opposition to 20-of-56 (35.7%) from the field and 3-of-13 (23.1%) from deep.
The Orange & Blue also forced South Carolina into 21 turnovers, their second-highest number of the season, led by Jordyn Merritt and Nina Rickards with three steals each.

When UT And UF Last Met

Sophomore Tamari Key turned in a triple-double to lead No. 20/22 Tennessee to a 79-65 win over Florida in Thompson-Boling Arena on Jan. 31, 2021.

Key totaled 23 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks, setting career highs in both points and blocks. It marks just the fourth triple-double in Lady Vol history, and the first since Jordan Reynolds notched one against UNCW on Dec. 29, 2016. Junior Rae Burrell also eclipsed the 20-point scoring mark for Tennessee (12-3, 6-1 SEC) with 21, while senior Rennia Davis finished with 14.

Florida (9-8, 2-7 SEC) was led by Kiara Smith and Lavender Briggs who each had 23. Smith added 10 rebounds to her point total to record a double-double.

Next Up For UT Lady Vols Basketball

After playing at Florida on Thursday night, the Tennessee women’s basketball team will turn its attention toward a noon Sunday battle with No. 10/9 UConn in Hartford. FOX, which is new as a broadcasting entity in women’s college basketball, will have the telecast.

The match-up with the Huskies will be UT’s final non-conference tilt before the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Vols will return to SEC play, hosting Missouri next Thursday (SEC Network, 5:30pm CT) and Vanderbilt on Sunday (SEC Network, Noon, Play4Kay Game).


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